Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tuscaloosa AL to Kingsport TN

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

We left Tuscaloosa at 8:15 anxious to have this last day of travel behind us. We are listening to a new book and it should last all the way home. The sun is shining and it is 38 degrees – cooler than we are used to but not what we had anticipated. The weather report in Kingsport today was freezing fog – that did not sound too good!

The drive was long – we stopped once for gas and once for a picnic lunch just north of Chattanooga. The rest stop was brand new with the travel pamphlet displays just being set up today. The signage was not even finished with Men and Women signs taped on the walls.

When we got in the Sprinter this morning – Garmin told us we would be home at 2:30 – we made it and found most everything in good shape. We have a couple rather sickly looking plants that badly needed water. We unloaded the refrigerator and brought in a couple loads of things we might need tonight but will leave most of the time consuming work for tomorrow. Ben has to do an inspection on Thursday and Jane has commitments for Friday but for tomorrow – no one will even know we are back! Tomorrow we will get the mail and deal with it; do the laundry; and unpack and clean the Sprinter. Then Thursday we will re-enter our lives…

In retrospect this was a really good trip – a good blend of urban and remote locations to visit. We knew the state of Texas was big and this trip proved it. Our total mileage for the month was 5,828. The only days we drove over 300 miles were those traveling to and from Texas. Most days the driving was between 50 and 150 miles. The state is quite varied in cultures, terrain, and in the types of agriculture, resources, and businesses. We saw some homes that were of lower income families but nowhere did we see overwhelming poverty. Granted we did not see every part of the large cities but we did see many neighborhoods that were far from wealthy. All people we met seemed very proud of their state.

We learned a lot of Texas history, we learned about Tex-Mex, Texas BBQ, and Cajun cusines. Jane was able to cook a wider variety of foods in the Sprinter than on previous trips. The weather was great. We had rain two or three days but the only day it rained all day was one of our travel days home. There were several nights we could have been cold without our heater. There were only 3 nights we did not have electricity and while a couple of them were cool, our sleeping bags did their job. There was nothing we would do differently.

In a couple days I will upload the missing photos and an overview of the trip.

New Iberia LA to Tuscaloosa AL

Monday , November 30, 2009

Rain woke us up. Looking outside it was gray and wet with no sign of any break in the weather. Looking online at the weather it looked like that might be our lot for the entire day…oh well we have had very little rain and all we plan for today is one tour and driving, driving, driving…

We headed out a side road to Avery Island and the Tabasco Factory. We got there at 10 till 9:00 and had to wait at the toll gate to the island until 9:00 to enter! Along this small road we drove past fields of rice and sugar cane – both irrigated from small canals.

The story of Avery Island and Tabasco was interesting.

The island was created when a salt dome pushed up from the water. There is oil under the salt dome. The salt mine here is one of the oldest in the country and was carefully guarded during the civil war and finally captured and occupied by the north. The family was here before the civil war and returned to their land after the civil war. They mined the salt first and then began raising the peppers when a friend gave them some seeds from Mexico. The peppers are still grown here but additionally in Central and South America because they have a longer growing season. The peppers are all picked by hand and only when their color matches a red stick the family has provided for each worker. The peppers are prepared the same day they are picked – by washing and then grinding and mixing with a small amount of salt. The “mash” is then packed in oak barrels that they purchase from Jack Daniel. The lids with one small hole are put on the barrels and sealed with a salt paste from their own salt mines and the barrels of pepper mash ferment and sit in storage for 3 years.The barrels from the other locations are shipped here for storage and further preparation.

Barrel of Tabasco Mash sealed with Salt
Only after the 3 years of aging is the sauce made from mixing the mash with vinegar and any other seasoning ingredients. We were familiar with the red Tabasco and green Tabasco but not the wide variety of products they made. We watched the bottling of both red and green sauce today. We also tasted two types of flavored ice cream – jalapeno (Ben’s favorite) and sweet and spicy (Jane’s favorite); Tabasco cola, several sauces, jellies, and candies. You could easily spend $100 without trying. We bought a few things and headed back outside. They had a restaurant bar and we purchased Crawdad Etouffee and Boudin that we planned to eat for lunch. They also had Red Beans and Rice and Crawfish Corn Maque Choux. We wanted all 4 but really did not need that much lunch!

Crawfish Etouffee and Boudin

It was still raining as we left Avery Island. The family still lives on the island and manages the Tabasco Factory which sells Tabasco in over 160 countries! They have a bird sanctuary and tropical garden on the island that is supposed to be very nice but it was 10:20 and we felt we needed to be on our way home.

The rain continued up 90 to I-10 to Baton Rouge where we took I-12 instead of I-10 to New Orleans.

Bayou along I 12 - probably 30 miles of this on an elevated interstate.

Near the Mississippi line we picked up I-59 and began driving north east. Our last gas stop in Louisiana was interesting. It was part liquor store, part fast food, drive through Margaritas, and normal gas station stuff – it was indeed interesting. It seems strange to me to be selling liquor and gas in the same location – particularly the mixed drinks!

Still raining we continued to the Mississippi Welcome Center where we heated our lunch in the microwave --- it was really good. The Crawfish Etouffee was outstanding and the Boudin very interesting. It is a sausage casing filled with rice seasoned with pork and various Cajun spices. We shared both and it was more than enough lunch. We may not have spent much time in southern Louisiana but we certainly sampled their foods!

We continued across Mississippi and into Alabama where we made the decision to drive until 6 or 6:30 and stay in a Comfort Inn. It finally stopped raining about 3 PM. We made one stop at a Cracker Barrel in Meridian Mississippi for a book on tape. Since most Comfort Inns have a microwave can eat some of our leftover food which was our plan for tonight. We stopped in Tuscaloosa and will be on our way to Kingsport tomorrow. Hopefully the weather will be no rain. It is cold for us here – in 40’s and we expect it to be in the 30’s at home….back to reality.. Photos will be added when I have time